Oct/17/13 12:53 AM Filed in: Devin Hester
Devin Hester is seeking kick return advice from a former record-setting return specialist who saved some of his best work for the final years of his career.
As the Bears prepare to visit Washington on Sunday, Hester is paying attention to the career highlights and advice of Brian Mitchell, the former stellar returner for the Redskins and Eagles.
Mitchell had 13 special teams touchdowns; Hester has 18. Mitchell returned two punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns between the ages of 30 and 34 before he retired at 35.
"I am trying to research some of the things about what he did in his early 30s," Hester said Wednesday. "Some of the things he says … I am trying to do. I like to pick his brain."
Hester, who will turn 31 on Nov. 4, is in the last year of his contract and wants to prove he still has what it takes to be a premier threat. He says he wants to improve his "image" again around the league.
"The past couple of years I have been in a slump as far as returns go. I kind of struggled with that," said Hester, who is no longer being deployed also as a receiver. "So this year I am hoping to bounce back"
Hester has 3,020 career punt return yards and 4,643 kickoff return yards. He has 35 punt return yards this season and 575 on kickoff returns. Hester is 37 punt return yards away from overtaking Allen Rossum (3,056) for ninth most in NFL history. Mitchell is first with 4,999 yards.
"I am just a couple of blocks away from breaking one," Hester said of the kickoff returns. "We watch the film every week and we harp on it real hard … one or two mistakes from a 25-yard return (becoming a) 98-yard return."
Hester realizes that returning kicks is not a one-man operation, and he could use a little help from his friends.
"We have a lot of young guys (on the return units) and we are throwing a lot at them," he said. "You have to be able to play when you get thrown in there. We veterans have to start rallying and improving these young guys to help them out more.
"Once we get on the same page and everybody knows their assignments … that's when the returns will start hitting."
Hester also knows that he needs to rely more on guile and instincts than pure speed as he gets older.
"It's knowing what to do and what the other 10 guys' (on the kick return unit) assignments are doing," he said. "You can get away with raw speed and faking guys (at a young age). But later on in life, when teams start to understand what kind of runner you are, they start to pay more attention to you."